Afghanistan beat Ireland by 3 wickets to qualify for 2019 World Cup
Harare: Afghanistan continued their giant strides in international cricket by qualifying for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup in England with a thrilling five-wicket win against Ireland in the final Super Six encounter of qualifiers, here on Friday.
Earlier, two-time World champions West Indies have already qualified for the 2019 edition as the top team.
Rashid Khan performed splendidly with figures of of 3 for 40 as Afghanistan restricted Ireland to 209 for seven before reaching the target in 49.1 overs.
Having already earned Test status, this will be Afghanistan's second successive ODI World Cup after they also featured in the 2015 edition in Australia and New Zealand, famously defeating Scotland by one wicket in Dunedin.
Afghanistan returned from the brink after having lost first three group matches but managed to qualify for the Super Six after Nepal upset Hong Kong.
After winning both their Super Six matches against the Windies and the United Arab Emirates, they received an unexpected lifeline yesterday when the UAE held their nerves to shock Zimbabwe by three runs.
Incidentally, Zimbabwe will not play a World Cup for the first time since 1983, when they made their debut in England.
Chasing a modest target of 210, Afghanistan almost made a hash of a straightforward run-chase before coasting home with five balls to spare in what turned out to be a battle of attrition.
Opener Mohammad Shahzad, who was named 'Player of the Match' for a brisk knock of 54.
"We lost a couple of matches but we played good cricket in the Super Sixes. We had to win this game. The plan was simple, I was looking for the loose deliveries. I did not care whether it was a spinner or fast bowler. I just went for it. I believe in myself and the senior management staff encouraged me. Today, I waited for the loose deliveries and smashed it," he said.